Saturday, October 25, 2008

Organizations vs. members

I want to go off on a tangent from something that arose in a FriendFeed discussion on Proposition 8. Here are the relevant excerpts from that discussion:

If the LDS as a Church (aka religious corporation) can donate why can't Apple? - aka Taylor

aka Taylor: not to mention that LDS isn't even located inside California. Apple is and its employees are totally affected when they lose their rights due to a church trying to take away legal rights. - Robert Scoble

Robert and aka, to clarify: The LDS church is not donating for Yes on 8. They are encouraging their members to support the multi-faith group "Protect Marriage" that supports Prop 8. I would be more careful in terms of how that is portrayed, though the misunderstanding is easy. - Louis Gray

Louis: ABC news radio was reporting today that 30 to 40% of the Yes on 8 ad money came from the LDS church. In any case, that's hardly any different. This is an issue that in 50 to 100 years your organization will end up apologizing for, just like churches have had to apologize for being on the wrong line of justice and decency before. - Robert Scoble

Robert, yes, the link shows 30-40% of the ad money has come from church members. The church has itself not donated. - Louis Gray

Louis: interesting that you make a distinction between an organization and its members. I do not. They are one and the same, particularly when leaders of that organization are encouraging the members to do something specific. - Robert Scoble

For the moment, I'm not looking at the political/legal issues (which I've raised in another FriendFeed discussion), or the religious issues (I may collect information on churches for and against Proposition 8 at some point).

I'd like to concentrate on the organizational issues.

At various times in our life, all of us align ourselves with various organizations. Louis Gray has aligned himself with the LDS church, his employer, FriendFeed, and probably some baby of the month clubs here and there. In addition to the LCMS church and my employer, I have aligned myself with Childrens' Theatre Experience (watch for name change soon), FriendFeed, and (at one time) the Radio Shack Battery Club. And both Gray and I are citizens of the United States of America, and of California.

Sometimes the organizations with which we align ourselves work for contradictory purposes. I'm sure that there are some Mormons who live in California who work for Apple Computer. Their church supports Proposition 8, while their employer opposes it. What if the Mormons were to excommunicate Apple Computer employees for associating with an organization that is incompatible with Mormon belief? Or, conversely, what if Apple Computer were to fire all Mormons for associating with an anti-human rights organization? No, neither of these events is about to occur, but if one assumes that there is no distinction between an organization and its members, then such drastic actions could easily be supported.

Let's take another example, straight from last week's headlines. The Major League Baseball Players Association has reportedly found evidence that team owners acted in collusion to keep former Giants slugger Barry Bonds from playing in the majors this season. Does this action by the MLBPA necessarily mean that every member of the organization agrees that Bonds has been wronged? If so, should I boycott games in which MBLPA members, a/k/a "steroid supporters," appear?

The truth is, there are very few cases in which all members of an organization agree 100% with the organization itself. Democrats are fond of saying that McCain voted with the Republicans 90% of the time; this means that he voted against his own party 10% of the time. (Similarly, Obama was anti-Democrat 3% of the time.)

Any American citizen who is reading this post must realize that they - I mean we - are to blame for dead babies in Iraq and Afghanistan, radiation sickness in Japan, and all other crimes against humanity.

And Robert Scoble, if someone associated with an organization is to be blamed for the bad actions of an association itself, then I guess you're to blame for the fact that Norton AntiVirus 2009 forced me to uninstall Norton Personal Firewall 2004 last Wednesday. (Apparently Symantec, rather than Seagate, is's advertiser of choice these days.)

All fun aside, the conflicts between an individual and the individual's organization have naturally warranted a great deal of study. A U.S. Air Force lieutenant co-wrote a 1976 article that stated the following:

Conflicts occur when the needs and goals of the individual are not in harmony with the needs and goals of the organization....Traditionally, personal values tend to be hostile toward organizations, big government, big business, bureaucracy, and...the military. Again, conflict can arise when interdependency exists. Employees become dependent on organizations to give their lives direction and meaning. Such dependency allows them to escape the burdens of personal responsibility. Whereas we praise individualism in workers, the organization often requires that the individual be treated impersonally. We see this in "distant" management, in which the people sense an absence of concern for their individuality and personal needs. Efficiency requirements of the organization also act as sources of conflict because they regularly demand that the goals and needs of the organization be given higher priority than the rights of the individual. We, therefore, yield to the proposition that conflict between the organization and personal values is normal and a fact of life.

Until persuaded otherwise, I will continue to believe that it is better to engage people on an individual basis, rather than treat all members of an organization equally. I should not interact with Louis Gray and Jesse Stay in the same way just because both happen to be FriendFeed users.

Sphere: Related Content
blog comments powered by Disqus